For Jonathan "johnxfire" Nathan Fernandez, casting Dota 2 wasn't what he had in mind even though he's a huge Dota 2 fan.
He had studied animation, but was bad at drawing, and admitted that he had no "legitimately had no clue" what he wanted to pursue.
Likewise, Mike "MLPDotA" Le Phoenix was stuck in a 9-to-5 job and started casting Dota 2 because his job "was so depressing."
"I was miserable. So for me it was like, I'm going all in and if it doesn't work, I don't know what the hell I'm doing, 'cos I'm gonna be outta money, I'm gonna be outta savings and I'm gonna have no career path," he said in an exclusive interview with Yahoo Esports SEA.
The Australian caster further added that he didn't know what would have happened if he had not succeeded, and he had considered maybe starting a business, but he probably "wouldn't even have the capital to start one at that point."
Johnxfire, however, took a slightly different route. He was competing in a Dota 2 league called Red League in 2012, but because his team had too many players, he decided to cast the game instead, and were then told by his team that his casting was really good. However, the Filipino caster chose not pursue a casting career until he met MLPDota in 2017.
It's all in the chemistry
MLPDota had a friend bail on him for the amateur Dota 2 Echo League, with said friend then recommending johnxfire to replace him. And, surprisingly, they got on fabulously and had lots of chemistry.
MLPDota then suggested making the pairing an ongoing thing, with him doing play-by-play while johnxfire was the analyst.
And that journey has paid off, with the caster duo finally meeting for the first time at the ESL One Stockholm Major 2022.
"I think we were expecting to meet like maybe a year earlier. There was something that was supposed to happen. But COVID hit and cut just kind of stalled out and just figured, you know, just happened in Stockholm," said johnxfire.
And the duo wasn't even expecting to be there – ESL One had called them to cast the group stages after announcing the main event casters, so getting to Stockholm to finally meet up was a bonus.
Lots of firsts at the @ESLDota2 Stockholm Major - first time meeting @MLPDotA and being on a LAN and studio environment and it was absolutely AWESOME! Thank you for all the support, and thank you to all the wonderful talent and crew and staff of ESL for being the absolute best!
— TLN.johnxfire (@johnxfire) May 23, 2022
Of course, their meeting in Stockholm wasn't even the end of the adventure – both casters reunited in Singapore to cast The International 2022 Main Event, where johnxfire's dad played bouncer to make sure fans got the best pictures of the pair.
"So the interesting thing was my dad would stand by our desks, and he would act like a bouncer. It's like, 'okay, you want a picture? I'll hold your phone. I'll take a picture for you.' So that was always funny. I don't think anyone assumed that that dude was my dad, but my dad was there taking everyone's pictures," he said.
It was an honor to be able to cast #TI11 with my beloved partner @MLPDotA - thank you to everyone for supporting us - without you, I doubt we would've been able to reach this point. Massive thanks to PGL and Valve for having us on, and hope everyone enjoyed - till the next! pic.twitter.com/EciWZwv7ho
— TLN.johnxfire (@johnxfire) October 30, 2022
After years of grinding in Dota 2's competitive casting scene, the johnxfire-MLPDota duo finally got to showcase their talent and chemistry in the game's biggest stage.
No longer just a rising pair, they have cemented themselves as SEA's casting duo in the top tier of the casting ladder.
Aloysius Low is an ex-CNET editor with more than 15 years of experience. He's really into cats and is currently reviewing products at canbuyornot.com